Goodbye, Old Friend

by Joe Courter

Well, I have done it. I no longer have a Gainesville Sun being delivered to me. No more newspaper to read with my morning coffee, as I’ve had for most all of the last 35 years. The final straw was continuing to receive it and read it after the elimination of letters to the editor and the editorials from various sources, and finding it such a hollow experience. 

Oh, I knew this break was coming, beginning with the elimination of the Scene magazine a few years ago and the gap that caused. We are in such a culturally rich city and there goes the part of the newspaper devoted to it. Next big thing was dropping the Saturday paper, another loss for the theater and music scene, and as well the sports on TV listing. And for those that cared, no reports on their high school sports is big, too. 

Yes, there is social media filling the gap to an extent. Information available on social media and the web is vast, but it is not the common source we used to have, so we are no longer on the same page (no pun intended). 

It is the unintended consequence of our technology evolving coupled with corporate ownership exploiting these new opportunities to cut costs and make more profits. And face it, we people have changed our habits as well, opting for all the shiny objects offered to us. 

I heard former Sun publisher Doug Ray speak at the Florida Free Speech Forum recently, and he brought up some interesting points. He said young people’s decline in reading newspapers began in the ’80s and ’90s, predating social media. I believe a lot of young people fell under the spell of Reagan’s projected optimism as well, but it does underscore readership drop off.

So what do we have? Choices. Just like our TV viewing; I grew up near NYC, there were less than ten choices of channels and some of them had shaky reception. 

Now? Almost unlimited choices (if you’ll spend the money). Moreover, we can curate our own consumption, watching not only what we want but when we want.

So, old fart that I am, who learned to read before I ever watched a TV screen, I now need to make friends with reading my local newspaper on a screen. But I will really miss that trip to the delivery box in the morning, and the spread of the paper on the table as I read, dropping crumbs on it, leaving rings from my coffee cup. That I can deal with, I guess. And I don’t have all that paper to recycle, either.

The part that is gone, and I will miss, is those letters to the editor from my fellow townspeople, reflecting the pulse of my community on a variety of issues. Nathan Crabbe at the Sun was doing a great job of finding editorials, especially in the Sunday paper. That is gone, too.

This affects everyone for the worst – the lack of government watchdog and corruption reporting, the things newspaper reporters used to do. They are gone now, too. 

Investigative journalism will have neither the financial backing nor the platform to get their stories published. This does not bode well for the maintenance of an informed citizenry so needed for our elections to produce wise leaders, and holding elected leaders accountable. 

But perhaps that horse has already left the barn: this Congress … holy smokes … we are in deep trouble.

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